|LOWLIFE (director/writer: Ryan Prows; screenwriters: Tim Cairo/Jake Gibson/Maxwell Michael Towson/Shaye Ogbana; cinematographer: Benjamin Kitchens; editors: Jarod Shannon/Brett W. Bachman; music: Kreng; cast: Nicki Micheaux (Crystal), Ricardo Adam Zarate (El Monstruo), Jon Oswald (Randy), Shaye Ogbonna (Keith), Santana Dempsey (Kaylee), Mark Burnham (Teddy 'Bear' Haynes), Jose Rosete (Agent Fowler), King Orba (Dan), Brett Eason (ICE agent), Olivia Benavides (Rosa Maria), Anna Pulido (Eloísa), Jearnest Corchado (Gabriella), Clayton Cardenas (Wayne Hernandez); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Derek Bishé /Tim Cairo/Narineh Hacopian; IFC; 2017-in English and Spanish, with English subtitles if needed)|
|"Has a field day with
the lowlife characters it puts under
its looking glass."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An off-the-wall Pulp Fiction-like Tarantino-esque film. The indie madcap character-driven drama, feeling like an updated relic from the 1990s, offers a blend of excessive violence, dark comedy, a straight crime drama, a time-shifting structure and characters who can shift from bad to good on the fly. The weirdly entertaining blood-splattered dark comedy debut feature by Ryan Prows (who earlier won a Student Academy Award for the short 'Narcocorrido') has a field day with the lowlife characters it puts under its looking glass. Prows and four other writers, Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson, Maxwell Michael Towson and Shaye Ogbana, successfully write the gimmicky script but not without staying with a few gross-out sequence for too long and never employing the same witty dialogue as Tarantino.
In the underbelly of Los Angeles, the depraved smarmy restaurant owner Teddy 'Bear' Haynes (Mark Burnham) is a human trafficker in the black market. He uses as a surgical facility the space below his fish taco building for harvesting organs of undocumented Latino immigrants (delivered to him by corrupt or fake ICE agents). He also pimps out the underage women not chopped up for organ removals. His enforcer is the Mexican El Monstruo (Ricardo Adam Zarate), a failed Luchador, always in a wrestling mask and capable of both shame and deadly black-out rage, who was forced into that position by Teddy. The self-pitying El Monstruo also frets a lot about the condition of his junkie pregnant wife Kaylee (Santana Dempsey), who is the cocaine snorting Teddy's adopted daughter.
Most of the other characters have been morally compromised, either wittingly or unwittingly. For instance there's the unsympathetic manager of a rundown motel, Crystal (Nicki Michaux), used for the sex operation, and her friends—the African American accountant with a mean-streak who has gone legit, Keith (Shaye Ogbonna), and his long-time ex-con white pal, now released from prison with a full-facial Swastika tattoo, Randy (Jon Oswald).
Through a good edit all the stories of the various characters mesh together as one in the wacky fairy-tale ending.
It works fine as a bizarre cult film, one that you can't take your eyes off as it tells its crazy story in an adrenaline-filled way. It stands out as an hilarious but sad tale about modern-day America in a state of crisis, that strangely enough despite its violent characters has a heart.
REVIEWED ON 8/10/2018 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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